"I congratulate the Syrian Social Nationalists who participated [in the events of] that day for their honourable stand, which became an important part of the history of our renaissance and struggle. The participants in the events of Bikfayyah deserve to be commendably remembered when the Social Nationalist Renaissance achieves victory. Their stance strengthens the bonds of our unity and drives us forward."
- Antun Sa’adeh
On February 20, 1937, the Lebanese authorities tried to prevent and later disband a national celebration held by the SSNP in the Lebanese mountain town of Bikfayyah. This celebration followed a large popular welcoming rally held on January 19, 1937, in the mountain town of Amatour in the Shuf area. Like the first rally, the Bikfayyah celebration was well-organized and intended to demonstrate the popular support for the SSNP and its leader in that area of Mount Lebanon.
Sa’adeh, it should be noted, had insisted on having the celebration in this particular town. When a local party member reminded him that Bikfayyah was recognized as a centre for the government and the pro-French Maronite political parties, and that the SSNP local branch in this district was relatively weaker, Sa’adeh replied: “Because Bikfaya was recognized as such, I want the celebration to take place in it.”
At any rate, government security forces led by the local governor (Qa’immaqam), Fu’ad al-Baryyidi, attempted to seize the flags raised in the celebration and disperse the participants. Violent clashes ensued and led to the encirclement of the Lebanese security forces by participating SSNP members. In the wake of the bloody clashes, Sa’adeh issued a communiqué in which he attacked the government and the ruling sectarian class. He argued that the Social Nationalists were not strangers in Lebanon, but members of the Lebanese State with the right to express their opinions in regard to its destiny. Sa’adeh then warned:
If Lebanon has an entity, then it is the entity of the Lebanese people as a whole, unless the ruling class in Lebanon regards itself as Lebanon and the Lebanese people as nothing but the ruled community; then we have the honour to declare that one of the most important goals of the SSNP is to eliminate this bad image of our national life - the image of the ruler and the ruled - and to put an end to civil privileges in the state.
The Lebanese government reacted angrily to Sa’adeh’s communiqué. According to observers, “a vast and well-organized campaign of persecution against the party” ensued. This was accompanied by an attempt to arrest Sa’adeh. On March 9, 1937, the authorities succeeded in arresting him for the third time, on a charge of inciting the people against public order. He was kept in prison for two months, during which he was tried but proven innocent.
While in prison, Sa’adeh wrote Nushu’ al-Ummah al-Suriyyah (The Genesis of the Syrian Nation), but the French authorities confiscated the manuscript and never returned it. Following Sa’adeh’s arrest, hundreds of youths in Tripoli and al-Kura supporting the SSNP petitioned the Lebanese President complaining about the government’s restrictions on freedoms and appealing to him for Sa’adeh’s release. In response to the tone used in their petition, the government accused those who had signed it of conspiracy against general order and of contempt of the government. They were subjected to two trials and each fined a certain amount.
Bikfayyah Day: A Great Historical Day
Dr. Edmond Melhem